After weeks and weeks of ice and snow, it’s so good to feel the warmth of the sun. I’ve been holed up in my little studio working on a new subset of my Mare Incognitum project. My latest paintings are all small pieces in acrylic, 10″ x 10″. I’m exploring a colour palette and mark-making inspired by memories and impressions of the ocean, specifically, it’s raw power and ever-present movement.
In addition to hours in the studio, I’ve been diving into the work of Irish writer and poet John O’Donogue. He died some time ago, but his work is timeless. His brother Pat writes of his work:
“His themes of echo as the response of continuity, imagination as the ability to still see the mountain behind the mist, and absence as the transformed presence of the vanished, awaken our thinking and provide food for our spiritual journey in an increasingly hungry world.” – John O’Donogue
I came upon O’Donogue’s writing on Brain Pickings, while researching the role of memory in creativity. Everything I’ve been painting in the last year is based on exploring how being and experiencing in a deeply present way affects your sense of the moment and place, and thus your memory of it.
“Memoria is always quietly at work, gathering and interweaving experience. Memoria is the place where our vanished lives secretly gather. For nothing that happens to us is ever finally lost or forgotten. In a strange way, everything that happens to us remains somehow still alive within us… It is crucial to understand that experience itself is not merely an empirical process of appropriating or digesting blocks of life. Experience is rather a journey of transfiguration. Both that which is lived and the one who lives it are transfigured. Experience is not about the consumption of life, rather it is about the interflow of creation into the self and of the self into creation. This brings about subtle and consistently new configurations in both. That is the activity of growth and creativity.” – John O’Donogue
Beyond the powerful influence of memory, my work focuses on reaching beyond the boundaries of the known, or pushing myself beyond what I’m comfortable with. The forms and motifs inspired by water and ocean give me a perfect metaphor to work with… Mare Incognitum. O’Donogue wrote extensively and beautifully of the ocean and on how water expresses elements of the sublime:
“One of the most amazing shapes that water takes is that of the ocean. The presence of an ocean is so huge that it resembles the divine; its constant movement and soundings signal a powerful inner life. Surprising in such a huge force is its perfect sense of rhythm. The ebb and flow of the tide resembles in a strange way the ebb and flow of the human breath.” – John O’Donogue
You can find Krista Tippett’s wonderful On Being interview with O’Donogue on the home page of the website dedicated to his work: https://www.johnodonohue.com/